Become A CPA

Become A CPA

Diversity: A Business Imperative

by Kimberly Scott, CAE, WSCPA President & CEO | Jul 05, 2017

For decades the Washington CPA Foundation has been supporting college students by providing scholarships. The scholarship program has grown and this year the Foundation awarded $300,000 in scholarships to extremely talented accounting students in Washington State. These scholarships have been made possible by named scholarship providers, the legislation that created the Certified Public Accounting Scholarship Program from the Washington State Board of Accountancy (WBOA), endowments, and WSCPA member contributions. I am excited to see the support to create future CPAs.

As impressive as the scholarship program is, the Foundation Trustees realize that there is more work to be done to ensure the future of the profession is as vibrant as possible. The CPA profession needs to continue to grow, and it must also diversify.

Recognizing the importance of encouraging diversity of the profession, the Trustees recently decided to provide grants to organizations that are creating opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds to learn about accounting as a career. Studies show that children who meet a CPA or learn about the CPA profession at a young age are more likely to become a CPA.

Increasing diversity in the students studying to become CPAs is a business imperative. First, national and international clients are becoming increasingly more diverse. To continue to grow and develop new business, significant portions of the accounting profession’s growth must originate from serving more diverse, international clients. If CPAs are to form lasting business relationships with their clients, they must understand their clients’ diverse cultures and decision-making processes, not merely their languages. The profession needs to be known for and comprised of diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Second, a diverse workforce is also a catalyst for growth. It is well-proven that diverse, heterogeneous teams promote creativity and innovation. Only by fully embracing diversity and maximizing the well-being and contributions of everyone can we fully maximize the strength and relevance of the accounting profession.

This year the Foundation will be providing grants to two organizations that are already working to increase the diversity of the profession: Accounting Careers Awareness Program (ACAP) and College Access Now (CAN).

ACAP was started in Seattle in 1980 by CPAs and now has been replicated around the nation. ACAP provides a week-long summer program for underrepresented high school students to learn about accounting as a career option, and to be inspired to enroll in college and pursue the education necessary to obtain their CPA license. Since 2011, 297 students have participated in the ACAP program. Currently 87 of the students are still in high school, but 167 of them are enrolled in college, and 30 of them have declared accounting as their major. These students did not know about the option of accounting as a career prior to attending ACAP.

CAN was started in 2005 and is also a program that originated in Washington State. CAN works with high school students (11 schools in 4 districts) who may not think of college as a viable option and has served 1,050 students. CAN transforms the process of getting into college into manageable steps. CAN staff work at the high schools with juniors and seniors. Once a student enrolls in college, CAN provides a mentor who will, throughout the college years, provide the support needed to reach graduation. All CAN students are considered low income, 91% are students of color, 89% are first generation and 53% speak a language other than English. With the Foundation grant, CAN will be hosting events to introduce high school students to accounting as a potential career.

Now your contribution to the Foundation supports the future of the CPA profession in two ways: by providing scholarships to promising accounting students and by supporting programs to increase awareness of accounting careers among diverse populations of high school students in our state. You can contribute to the Foundation online or by calling (425) 644-4800.

Kimberly Scott, CAE, WSCPA President and CEO

About the Author

Kimberly Scott, CAE, is the President and CEO of the WSCPA. You can contact her at This article first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of WashingtonCPA Magazine. Read more here.

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